All Quiet on the Western Front

A fine representation on the horrors of war from the Germans’ perspective.

The first made German film adaptation on Erich Maria Remarque’s novel “All Quiet on the Western Front” is a riveting and haunting study on how War is evil. The minute the First World War begins, the soldiers are already begging to go home. It’s unimaginable what they experienced inside and outside the trenches.

This is probably the most gripping, thought provoking, and complex WWI film since Sam Mendes’ “1917.” They both are about soldiers who find themselves in horrible conditions, and struggle to get out alive. This one, I think, is more graphic in terms of what they experience in the war.

They come across a warehouse where soldiers took off their gas masks too soon, and are all dead.

They get attacked by tanks and flame-throwers, and we actually see some of the soldiers getting squished by them or burned alive. With the right special effects team and lighting, it all looks and feels real.

There are also scenes of amputations and blood all around.

We even see one of the soldiers stabbing themselves in the neck with a fork, because they refuse to live the rest of their lives disabled. Some never felt like they were lucky to still be breathing.

And we hear them screaming, hiding from their enemies, and mortally wounded as well.

Certain moments are difficult to watch, but everything is reflected on the war’s horrors and realism. Director Edward Berger makes the film look and feel haunting with help from cinematographer James Friend and composer Volker Bertelsmann.

One of the soldiers is a youngster named Paul Baumer (Felix Kammerer), who lies about his age to enlist, and soon realizes he’s made a big mistake. He wanted to prove to his mother that he can come out alive, and look where it’s got him. And this point, he’s lucky enough to have an older solider named Kat (Albrecht Schuch) to be by his side through thick and thin. He tells Paul they’re both lucky to be alive.

“All Quiet on the Western Front” is released on Netflix with two formats. There’s the original German version with the authentic dialogue, and there’s the British-English version with dubbed dialogue. Personally, I stuck with the German version for its authenticity. To really watch a foreign film is to feel something real, to acknowledge what European films have to offer, and how their language influences the characters.

The actors-particularly Kammerer, Schuch, and Daniel Bruhl (who also produces and plays the politician Matthias Erzberger)-are universally phenomenal in their own respective ways of representing their characters’ hardships. Kammerer is scared, Schuch is patient, and Bruhl must help end the war. They’re all given dialogue, tones, and complications that make them vulnerable.

Gorgeously photographed, the movie makes us feel like we are in the war with the cold and muddy water, and the intensity of the violence and screaming. War is not a game. This is real AF, and this represents the book’s ambiance and humanity. Well, whatever humanity it has to go about. And this isn’t the first film version, after the 1930 silent film and the 1979 TV movie.

You’re either gonna be entertained or unhappy or a little of both by what you’re about to see in this war movie. But this is a war movie, and its depth and emotion really keeps you in. Just be lucky where you are right now.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4.

In Select Theaters and Streaming on Netflix

Categories: Action, Drama, Foreign, War

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